“Well, we finally made it,” said Emerald, as the three approached the gate of Andea. “W-wow… It’s much bigger than my hometown… Are you sure I’m gonna be okay here?” asked Sunny. “I was just like you. I ended up here all alone when I was little. You’ll do fine.” Sunny sighed as they began their walk through the busy streets of the town. “Ahhhh… It’s good to be back to civilization!” said Pyren, relieved. The three crossed the center square, Sunny gawking at the huge fountain, and they entered the street where Emerald and Pyren had first met. “It’s so nostalgic, isn’t it, Pyren?” said Emerald. “Y-yeah… I remember you tripping on the stairs,” he said, chuckling. “And then I fell face first into you!” she exclaimed. “Now that you think about it… wasn’t that our first kiss?” responded the folf. Emerald blushed and scratched behind her ears. They reminisced their meeting while letting Sunny into Emerald’s house.
“Hopefully you’ll be okay staying at my place for a while,” said Emerald. Sunny slowly looked around the small home. “It’s so… bare…” she muttered. “Sorry. It’s the best we can do right now,” responded the cat. Sunny walked over and sat on Emerald’s bed. “I miss my room… I miss my home… I miss my papa…” she mumbled, beginning to tear up. “H-hey! C’mon, cheer up!” said Pyren, unsure of how to help. She sniffled. “I’m sorry…” she muttered. The fennec fox took off her slightly muddy glasses and wiped her tears. “I’ve gotta be strong… This is no time to be crying…” She got up off the bed and looked up at Emerald. “I can’t tell you how happy I am that I have such nice friends. You saved my life and went all this way just for me…. Thank you so much...” she said, sniffling again. Emerald looked at Pyren and they both smiled. “Well, I’m glad we could help you out,” said Pyren, almost bragging. Sunny ran up and put her paws around Pyren’s yellow-furred chest. “Eh-heh….” chuckled the folf, who was blushing. Emerald dug around in his enchanted bag, pulling out the coins Ark had put in. “You should be fine for a few days with these,” she said. Sunny released her hold on the folf and turned around. “Y-you’re going to leave?” she exclaimed. “Well, yeah. We’re probably gonna stay for another day if you need us for anything, but we gotta go look for Ark,” responded Pyren. “I’m gonna miss you guys…” said Sunny. “Don’t worry. We’ll be back in no time. I’m gonna knock some sense into that brother of mine for leaving like that,” said Pyren, grinning and cracking his knuckles. Emerald kneeled down and nuzzled her friend one last time. “If you need us, we’ll be at the inn,” she said, paw on the doorknob. After the two furs had left, Sunny sat back down on Emerald’s bed. She stared out the window as her only friends headed for the inn.
Night fell, and Sunny was still in bed. The fennec fox lay alone in the dark. She sniffled once and shook her head. “I-I’d better go find them…” she said, hopping out of bed. Her fur was nice and soft and her dress was cleaned up after they were washed. Sunny scampered over to the door, carefully opening and closing it as to not alert anyone. The normally candle and oil-lit town was darkened and difficult to see in, something that was a bit of a scare to Sunny. She wandered through the streets, stumbling on curbs, getting lost, and otherwise clumsily making her way through until she finally reached the inn. The first floor had a dimly lit bar, with rows of glasses hung up on the shelf and several ice boxes below. She treaded carefully and breathed softly, scared of what may jump out at her from the shadows. Confirming her suspicions, sitting at one of the tables was an entire pack of wolves, each laughing, drinking, and roughhousing. “Hey, get us another round of drinks!” demanded a dark red male wolf, speaking on behalf of the group. The poor bartender, the same red panda Ark and Pyren met, scrambled to pour the pack their drinks. Along with the crimson wolf, there was a grey and purple female, dark blue and black male, and most interestingly, a black and dark grey wolf, whose red eyes made him stand out. The three boys of the group taunted the red panda girl, rudely throwing their Lans across the counter and laughing as she frantically tried to pick them up. “Nice idea, Tyrel,” snickered the blue and black wolf, flicking his red friend’s furry shoulder. “Hey, you chimed in too, dumbass!” exclaimed Tyrel, shoving the blue wolf a few centimeters back. “Umm..” muttered a terrified, slowly making her way to the stairwell before the rowdy bunch of wolves took notice. Unfortunately for her, her presence was not unknown to the pitch black wolf sitting at the end of the table. “Hehehe… look what we have here…” he said, a wicked grin spreading across his face as he got up from his chair. “I ...hic... think I’ll be taking my leave… our little friend over here needs tending to…” muttered the drunken wolf, being given pats on the back and best wishes from each of his friends. Sunny whimpered as the shadowy wolf, who must have been at least a foot and a half taller than her, approached her, licking his lips as his murderous red eyes tracked her every movement. The fennec fox was frozen in terror, helpless when she was grabbed by the wolf. “Lemme go!” she cried, trying in vain to escape his grasp. A struggling Sunny cried and whimpered as he dragged her up the stairs to his room on the second floor, the red panda girl left utterly speechless.
He threw her on the bed, still showing off his crazed smile. Yawning, the dark-furred wolf stretched and started to remove his pants, leaving him in a pair of greyish boxers. The terrified fennec fox shivered as he stripped right in front of her. She didn’t dare move, for fear of attack from the obviously drunken wolf. He walked up to the bed and suddenly threw the pillows onto the ground, startling Sunny. “Eh-heh… maybe once I'm done with my new toy… hic… I'll cook her up and eat her…” slurred the wolf. Sunny’s fear-stricken eyes widened as she exclaimed, “E-eat?” The wolf licked his lips again. “Never had fox before,” he said, stroking the fur of the quivering Sunny. “And such a nice one too…” he said, running a claw along the whimpering fox girl’s face. Sunny shook in terror as he climbed into bed and reached for her. “Such ...hic… soft fur you have..” he said, caressing the fox. Sunny could only quiver and blush uncomfortably. “Mmmmmm….” muttered the wolf as he wrapped one claw around her chest, with the other reaching down lower. “S-stop…” she muttered, weakly. His tight grasp became more of a hug as he shifted to cuddling his captive. Soon enough, he was fast asleep. The fennec fox desperately tried to escape, but as much as she struggled, she couldn’t get out of her sleeping captor’s grasp. Sunny was hopeless. “I shouldn’t have left… I should have just stayed at home…” she cried, dejected after such an unfortunate turn of events left her as the plaything of a drunken, dark-furred wolf.
Sunny awoke in the arms of the wolf she had been kidnapped by, however, this time he seemed…..different. His black fur had mellowed out to a calm light grey, and his mane had changed shape. She, however, only took notice that his grip had loosened. The young fennec fox quickly took advantage of this and squeezed herself out of her captor’s grasp. Before she could slide off the bed, Sunny heard a loud yawn. She turned around and froze in fear. The wolf was awake. “Huh? Who are you? How did you get in here?” he asked her, confused as to what was going on. Sunny panicked and clambered for the door handle in order to escape. “W-wait! Where are you going?” asked the now gray-furred wolf. He jumped out of bed, pulled his pants on, and pursued.
In her blind terror, Sunny managed to trip and ended up on the floor with her back to the hallway wall. “P-please… Don’t hurt me…” she whimpered. The wolf tilted his head. “H-hurt you? Why would I do that?” he said, earnestly. Sunny was seriously confused. What happened to this wolf overnight that changed him so much. When he realized what must have happened, the grey wolf’s eyes widened. “Oh no…..” he muttered, stepping back and putting his paws over his muzzle. The fox’s confusion only increased. Was this even the same guy who kidnapped her last night? “I’m so so so so sorry… I can't imagine what he must have done to you. P-please forgive me,” he said, dropping to his knees and pleading sincerely. “He?” asked Sunny, still on edge. “I guess I should explain…” said the wolf, sighing and sitting down next to her.
“My name is Crescent, but you can call me Cress,” he told her. He ran one of his paws through his light grey mane. “I-I'm not exactly a normal fur...” muttered Cress, looking away from Sunny. She listened carefully, but kept her distance. “To say it bluntly, I’m cursed. Whatever my Sign is… it's nothing helpful,” he finished. Sunny began to scoot closer, intrigued at this fur’s condition. “There’s another me that lives inside my body. Maybe he’s a second soul, or split personality… I-I just don’t know. Every night my whole form changes and he takes over,” stated the wolf, completely straight-faced. “W-wait...Y-you mean…. you ARE the same wolf?” said Sunny, fear reinvigorated. Shivers ran down her spine as she recalled the events of the previous night. The fennec fox took one step backward before Cress buried his head in his paws.
“I don’t have any control over what the other me does! I wake up in the morning with no memory of the previous night!” he exclaimed, tearing up. It was obvious that Cress felt enormous guilt. Sunny gasped. “You weren’t… in control?” she asked, shocked. “I was just as consenting as you were,” mumbled the wolf. She looked defeated. “I-I’m sorry… I didn't know it wasn't you… I was so scared...” she muttered, starting to cry as well. “Umm… is it okay if I hug you?” asked Cress, nervously. “H-hug?” said Sunny, not wanting to remember last night. She gulped and held her paws out reluctantly. The wolf gave a faint smile, before wrapping his arms tightly around the small fox girl. She relaxed after feeling how genuine the embrace was. He needed it. They both did.
“Oh… I forgot to tell you my name. I’m Sunny. Nice to meet you…” mumbled Sunny, still nervous. Cress smiled. “That's a pretty name. Sunny and Crescent. Heh, that's a neat coincidence, huh?” said the wolf, mood beginning to lift. Sunny blushed. “L-look, I really am super sorry for that... I had no idea you weren’t him....” Sunny shivered. “Losing control of your body every single night… that sounds so… horrible!” she said, taking account of everything she had gone through. “I-it's fine... I've learned to live with it. I'm sorry for whatever the other me did to you…” said Cress, scratching behind his ear. “Well…. Is there anything I can do to help you?” asked Sunny, putting two paw-fingers together nervously. The wolf’s jaw dropped. “Y-you mean that after all I put you through, you still want to help me out?” he said, astonished. Sunny smiled. “You've been really nice to me. I'm still a little scared, but it's not your fault you change every night,” she said, smiling cheerfully. Cress grumbled. “Well…. there's supposedly a special amulet that might help my condition,” he said. “An amulet? What does it look like? Where do we find it?” asked Sunny, getting inquisitive. Cress sighed. “I don't where it is. None of the books I found gave me any clues. Apparently, it’s an old silver dragon relic with two heads.”
The mountains cast a dark shadow upon the plains beyond Landalsta. “He must be close...” mumbled Ark, flapping his wings heavily to keep himself in the air. The dowsing node on the hexagram was speeding up. Below him were numerous white figures he couldn’t make out. Piquing his interest, Ark flew down to investigate. When he touched down, he gasped when he saw where it was he was now standing. All around him were the bones of countless dragons of all sizes. Crumbling skulls littered the dark field, some looked large enough as to belong to monsters, others small enough to belong to children. Ark’s heart began to beat faster and faster. “W-what is this?” he asked, not aware he was going to get an answer. Appearing from behind a pile of bones was the very black dragon Ark had been searching for. “The corpses of a past generation. Innocent dragons slaughtered centuries ago,” he said. Ark quickly turned around and unchained his spellbook, ready to cast. His claws dug into the dirt as he clenched his tome in anger. The black dragon was not like Ark. He was taller, more muscular and had a longer neck. “You’ve been following me, youngling. Why?” he demanded, sternly. Ark growled. “You speak about innocent lives….yet you end just as many,” he said. The dark dragon approached Ark, who stepped back in caution, but was otherwise not intimidated. “What's wrong? I have no hostility for other dragons,” he told Ark. The younger dragon bore his teeth. “You nearly killed my friends and I while you were busy slaughtering the people of Vele,” he bitterly rebutted. “So sorry about that. It was merely part of the job. The name's Granz,” said the black dragon. “And you're with the Army?” asked Ark, still enraged. Granz laughed. “Those idiots? Give me a break. I work alone. I kill who I'm paid to kill. It's quite fulfilling work, if I do say so myself,” he said, nonchalantly. Ark scoffed. “How can you be fulfilled killing innocent furs?” he said, furious. “That's simple. They're furs. They've been slaying our kind for millennia,” responded Granz, holding his arms out wide. “It’s only fair that I get to kill a few of them considering how many of us they slaughtered in the last war.” Ark stepped back once again. “Last war? What are you talking about?” he questioned. “Look all around us,” said Granz, gesturing to the bones that littered the surrounding area. “This graveyard is where hundreds of dragons perished defending our homeland. The survivors were forced to flee into the mountains. Surely you've been taught all this in school, haven’t you.... hatchling?” asked Granz. Ark gasped. He had always been of the impression that his kind was the ‘evil’ one. Was Granz telling the truth? Were the furs really just as bad as they were? “My father left when I was young. I grew up alone with my mother in western Granval,” stated Ark, careful not to mention Pyren. Granz squinted, curiously. “And who might this father of yours be?” he asked, stepping closer to Ark. “Igneus the Blacksmith,” he responded, standing his ground. The black dragon gave a hearty laugh. “YOU’RE Igneus’ boy? Ha! Perhaps you will be useful to me after all. That crazy fool ought to be interested when I drag you back to him beaten to death! It’ll serve him right for trying to ruin all my fun!” Ark bore his teeth once more and held his weapon at the ready. “Frankly, I’d rather not kill you, but that father of yours really gets on my nerves,” said Granz, cracking his knuckles. Ark stepped forward this time. He stood confidently. “My father can wait. You’re going to pay for what you did! To Sunny, Sylvi…. and everyone else! I’ll make sure you never lay a claw on anyone else ever again!” he shouted, eyes blazing with vengeance. Granz rolled his eyes. “What a shame. It seems those pitiful beings have managed to sway you,” he said, sighing. The black dragon got into a stance, claws held out, ready for battle. “Maybe I won’t feel so bad for killing you, after all,” he muttered under his breath, smiling madly.
Pyren yawned. He got up and looked down at his sleeping girlfriend. The folf placed a paw on her shoulder and shook her gently. “H-huh? Is it time to get up already?” she mumbled. Pyren grinned. “You know, this is one of the first times we’ve woken up together without being attacked or something,” he said, kicking his footpaws up. “It is kinda nice,” she said. The cat looked down at him and laughed quietly. “What’s so funny?” asked Pyren. Emerald smirked. “I feel so guilty for thinking this, but I sorta miss you being a plushie,” she said. “W-what?” exclaimed her boyfriend. “You were really soft and cuddly. Maybe once we find Ark, he can change you back for a night or two,” she suggested, blushing. Pyren quivered at the idea. “M-maybe we could not do that….” he recommended, obviously fearing the transformation. The cat scooted up and gave him a nuzzle. “It was just a thought,” she said. Pyren warily got up and went into the washroom, dipped his paws into the water, and washed his face. Looking into the mirror, he contemplated. “I know my brother’s gotta have a reason for it…. I’ve always trusted his judgment… but… is he really right to do all that in the name of justice?” Emerald knocked on the door. “C-coming! He said, panicking. He opened the door, only for Emerald to grab him and kiss him right on the muzzle. The folf stumbled, only for her to walk past him to wash up herself. Pyren gave a sigh and then a soft smile. “I sure am glad I met her,” he muttered. When she came back, Emerald was all washed up and ready to go. “Alright, you ready to go?” she asked him. “Yeah, but where exactly are we going?” asked an unsure Pyren. Emerald loosened the tie on their enchanted bag and pulled out the map. “The capital, Landalsta. Ark flew to the northwest of Vele, right about here. Perhaps the dragon he was chasing was making a return trip. If we head back there, and then follow in that direction we should get to Landalsta in a few days,” she said. “Okay. We have food, water, extra supplies, and everything? You didn’t forget anything?” asked Pyren. “Yup. We’re all set. Let’s track down your brother.”
“A two-headed dragon-shaped pendant...where have I heard that before…?” muttered Sunny. Cress looked down. “I’ve always wanted to go out looking for it…. but... I’ve just been too afraid…I don’t want him to come out… What if he finds out I’m trying to get rid of him?” he said, going down a slippery slope. “I remember now!” exclaimed the fennec fox. “Miss Emerald has a pendant like that!” she said, elated. Cress’ eyes widened. “Y-you know where it is?” he asked, desperate. “I-I think so. One of my friends has it.” Cress gave a sigh of relief. “Oh… how I’ve yearned to be free of this curse… I just want to have my own identity… I just want to be me…” he said, putting his paws on her shoulders. Sunny smiled and hopped off the bed. “Then let’s get going!” she exclaimed. “You really want to help me?” asked a bewildered Cress. “Uh-huh!” she said, nodding. “You’re the second person to ever be a real friend to me. Besides, I’d feel all wrong inside if I just left you here.” “Thanks, Sunny,” he told her, shyly. “It’s the least I could do. I want to find Miss Emerald too. I don’t want to be shut up in a house anymore. I want to go out and make a difference!”
The dimly lit forge was quiet. Igneus sat at a desk in the nearby cave. In front of him was a set of parchments with the same pattern that was in Ark’s spellbook. The gray-scaled dragon sketched a red arrow from the middle left to about halfway to the top right. On the opposite end, he drew another arrow from the top right to the same spot the other arrow left on. “Alright. If their forces are going to meet ours here… then activating it soon is going to be-” muttered Igneus, stopping as someone entered the room. “Sir Igneus!” shouted a dragon on the other end of the cave. He quickly covered up the parchment in a panic. “I’ll be there in a moment,” he responded. Taking the golden key out of his pocket, he noticed its glow had changed. “Three of them are together… but the other two… has Granz found another?” he said. Igneus scoffed. “At this rate, I’ll have to intervene myself.” The fire dragon cracked his knuckles before grabbing his hammer. The final days were approaching. His plan would finally be set into motion.
Chapter 7 of Chosen of Fir: Mementos From a Distant Father.